An Artist Crafting Life: Michele Oka Doner
Graceful and gracious, articulate, beautiful, artistic, natural, true to herself are all words we would use to describe the artist and author Michele Oka Doner who we visited this week at her studio/home in Soho. We were blown away by her work, her amazing library, her aesthetic. In a studio filled with huge works, large furniture, and small remains and bits of pieces of past work and work to come, there is a surprising serenity. Just like her work. Just like nature she reveres.
Ms. Doner was born in Miami and educated at Cranbrook and the University of Michigan, where in five years she received a BA and MFA, and because her mother worried about financial security, a teaching certificate. All artistic roads, though, led to New York City, and so, with a young daughter in tow, she settled here in 1981 to pursue her passion to make her own life “as ceremonial and lovely” as she could. Art was and is for her, “a way of life, not a career.”
Ms. Doner draws inspiration from nature and from words, “taking advantage of the gift of those who wrote it down.” She does not worry about function. If it turns out to be useful, that's fine, but that's not her purpose. There isn't a material she doesn’t like. Even the paper of the books she made to hold her archives are beautiful. She makes sculptures and dishware, furniture and jewelry. She does everything and anything that inspires her. Ms. Doner has become world renowned working to please herself. Happily, people desperately want everything she makes, everything her inspiration touches.
We left her studio longing for a silver vase and a burning bush candelabra cast in bronze from actual twigs, hundreds and hundreds of them, and then put back together into something that illuminates your brain not just your room.
She said she set out to craft a life. She also said that that’s what we all do, whether we realize it or not. Hers just happens to be breathtakingly beautiful. Thank you, Daniella, for taking us there. Follow Oka Doner and her work. See her installation at the Herald Square subway station. It will make you happy.